Poem: Reading and Writing

I wrote this poem many years ago, in the mid-1990s I think. I can’t remember whether it was ever published anywhere previously:

Reading and Writing

Hunched over an orange waste-paper bin,
my brother showed me how to masturbate,
moaning and humphing as he came.
Days and years I spent bare on the coarse carpet
in the small bathroom, coaxing nothing
from my too young body;
empty spasms and nausea my only count.

Always rummaging, years later my brother
found Morgan Holmes: A Sailor,
a book a neighbour lent my parents
who hid it amongst an old, red valise,
a dusty lampshade, and another book
of black-and-white pornography.
But I was the one who read it through
and memorised the passages
of coarse fur, slickness, almond smells,
culled for my own first exercise in prose.

My piece of pornographic prose
was a hit with friends and I watched them
as they read, became flustered,
raised their eyebrows at the end
but made no comment on my style.

My father found my notebook and
erupted into a caricature of damnation,
shrieking as he tore my Hardy Boys
and all other ‘Western’ books to shreds.
After evening prayers on our soft rugs
he turned and said in even tones:
“It’s wrong to play with yourself.
On judgement day, your hands will burst
in childbirth, a hundred at a time from each finger.”

Morgan Holmes disappeared
but I saw the book in my father’s car
when, around a corner,
it slid from under his seat.
I nudged it back into hiding
and mused over how he must look,
my father, hunched over a bin.


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